With the Big 12 losing multiple first-round cornerbacks to the NFL Draft, the league figures to be depleted at that position. But with returnees like Leonard Johnson, the drop-off might not be as big as people think.
Johnson is entering his fourth year as a starter for the Cyclones, and he's made the most of his opportunities. As a freshman, Johnson set an FBS freshman record by putting up 319 kickoff return yards at Oklahoma State. Sure, he returned nine kickoffs in the game, but among those returns were take-backs of 73 and 72 yards. He also worked his way onto the field defensively, starting five games at cornerback as a true freshman.
Since then, the Florida native has been nearly impossible to keep off the field. He shifted off his return duties to play cornerback full time, and a year ago was able to earn second-team All-Big 12 honors from the coaches, an impressive designation given that three Big 12 cornerbacks went in the top 35 or so picks of the 2011 NFL Draft. Johnson finished fourth on the team in tackles, and his one interception was a deceptive number given that most teams avoided throwing his way. Now, Johnson will spend his senior season ranked among the top couple cover cornerbacks in the league, and as one of the top cover men Iowa State has had in the Big 12 era.
2010 Stats: 64 tackles, 2.5 for loss, one interception, eight passes defended, seven passes broken up, one fumble recovery